Why Florida Still Has the Death Penalty

On March 13, 2018, Qiu Feng Ke wrote a letter to Judge Mary Handsel of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit asking for the death penalty. Qiu had confessed early in the letter to his gruesome crime, describing how he had spent a year planning out the details for how he would kill his neighbor. He told the judge that he would plead guilty if, and only if, Judge Handsel gave him the death penalty. Qiu claims that “Death sentence is a win-win for every side involved in this case,” and said that taxpayers would save money, the court would save time and most importantly, the victim’s family would get closure. He also added that his crime was “heinous.” His only demand was for a speedy trial. Qui also said he would not appeal since it is, “What I deserve… A life for a life.”

While Qui probably won’t get the death penalty because the defendant cannot plead for the death penalty (only juries can recommend it), and the prosecution must be seeking it, which they aren’t (they are looking for life in prison), this does bring up the controversy of having the death penalty. According to a Gallup Poll, while the support for the death penalty has been decreasing for 45 years now, the majority of Americans still approve of the death penalty at 55 percent. The number of executions handed out has also decreased. In fact, only 31 states have the death penalty as an option. One of those states is Florida, where the requirements to meet the death penalty can be seen here.

Courtesy: Everydayfeminism

Seeing that the number of people arguing for the death penalty is declining, it is interesting, to say the least, that someone would approve it for themselves. Here’s a breakdown of Qiu's argument for the death penalty:

1. "It saves time and money"

Actually, it probably doesn’t. Because it’s the only truly irreversible form of punishment, the Constitution requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases, including several levels of mandatory review after a death sentence is issued. In fact, Florida wastes an estimated $24 million on executions, while it only cost $44,563 to keep an inmate in state prison. As far as saving time goes, an inmate will typically sit on death row for 10 years or more, and during that time a special team will be reviewing his or her case.

2. "It fits the crime."

While Qui may argue that his crime does fit the punishment, it is ultimately up to the jury. This can be seen as a tremendous burden on the jury because the death penalty is such a heavy decision. Cases that would warrant capital punishment in Florida are, “first-degree murder, felony murder, capital drug trafficking and capital sexual battery.” The prosecution must decide if the crime is heinous enough to even warrant considering it.

3. "It would give the family closure."

Each family is different and may want a different course of action when it comes to their loved one’s case. It is hard to put a decision on the emotions of victims’ families because each one is so different. Some have argued that the money used toward the death penalty should be redirected to the victim’s family to provide support, whether that be simply financial or through counseling.

Ultimately, the death penalty is a difficult topic because there are so many complicated factors. The decline of the approval rating is evidence of a much-needed discussion on it that I hope will continue in the future.